Backstage PassA friend introduced the cats and me to the Original Kids Theatre Company in London, Ontario, Canada. Thanks, friend! Often in such cases, when either a friend tells me about a theatre, or the cats discover someplace interesting, I find myself wanting to be part of their program myself, and Original Kids is no exception.

They began in 1991 in St. Thomas, Ontario, and moved to London, ON in 1994. Here’s a map for those of you unfamiliar with Ontario. By 1998, the kids involved had developed their skills and talents enough that a group of them was able to represent Canada at the World Youth Drama Festival in Germany. (May I pause here to say WOW?) In 2000, they began a tradition of an annual theatre-focused trip for high-school-aged members to New York’s Broadway. By 2013, the group numbered 300, and again a number of them were chosen to represent Canada at the World Festival of Children’s Theatre in Lingen, Germany.

Currently, they are a group of 300 (or so) kids aged 7 to 18, under the leadership of Artistic Director Andrew Tribe, Executive Director Jeffery Crane, Production Manager Joe Recchia and many others both on staff and on the board. Each Original Kid takes part in two productions each year. These productions range from Broadway musicals to Shakespearean dramas, and everything in between. To see a list of the shows that have been mounted by this group over the years, click here.

Besides their regular performances (playbill for the Fall 2014 season is here), they also go out into the community to do school productions, bringing theatre to kids who might not otherwise have the opportunity to not only see live theatre, but to see theatre by kids just like themselves. 5 to 8 year olds have a chance to get involved in the Kidlets program, which, judging from the “sold out” signs at this link, is a popular opportunity for kids in London, Ontario!

Everything on the theatre’s What We Stand For page is excellent, but this particularly resonated with me. For me, this is what involvement in the arts should be all about. This is truly empowerment through the arts.

“Original Kids Theatre was not formed to create stars because we feel each child already shines in his or her own way. Through exposure to the arts it is our belief that youth will more easily share in the joy of life with a heightened appreciation for themselves and those around them.”

Bravo to the Original Kids Theatre Company for providing such a rich theatrical experience for so many kids!

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